Friday, April 12, 2024

“Downton” Season 5 Ends Tonight: Lily James, Allen Leech Are (May Be) Leaving


update: with spoilers So “Downton” is losing Rose and Branson. The season 5 finale was so well executed and hit every mark, from the “Golden Girls” stories to the nearly interminable Bates-Anna murder saga. Who will Fellowes introduce? Will Matthew Goode’s Henry Talbott be the match for Mary? All done with such zip and grace, including the mini plots of this episode. Well played. The finale episode should win the Emmy for Best Drama, hands down.

EARLIER “Downton Abbey” season 5 ends Sunday night in the US with some farewells. Newly married Rose, played by Lily James, is moving to New York with her Jewish husband, Atticus. (There they will meet Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, and be caught up– off camera– in the Roaring 20s.) James is about to open in “Cinderella” with Cate Blanchett and is also making an exit, although she can return at any time. Show creator Julian Fellows has left the door open.

Then there’s Tom Branson, the chauffeur turned son-in-law played by Allen Leech. Branson wants to move to Boston, where he has a cousin. (Tom will meet Joseph P. Kennedy and get caught up in Democratic party politics– maybe. Or he will strike out and return with an American bride no one likes.) Leech has had a taste of Hollywood this season, making a strong appearance in “The Imitation Game.” Fellows is also writing him out, but he can return, too.

Into the mix comes Matthew Goode, straight from “The Good Wife” and also “The Imitation Game.” A big ticket name, Goode arrives at “Downton” as Mary’s possible end game to replace Matthew Crawley (Dan “I’m so sorry now” Stephens.) Goode plays Henry Talbot, and I dare say he’ll be running the estate by the end of Season 6. Goode has been waiting a while for a breakthrough role; I hope this it.

Fellowes will have to come up with a romance for Edith (Laura Carmichael) and somehow add in a young woman with the Crawleys to replace Rose, who replaced Sybil. Ah, Poor Sybil. Jessica Brown-Findlay thought she was leaving the show for the Big Screen. But in quick order her successor– Lily James– has gotten their first.  I’ll bet she wishes Sybil had taken better care of herself during that pregnancy!

Last Sunday’s episode, of Rose marrying Atticus, was beautifully written, as usual. There were a couple of times I caught myself laughing out loud. Of course, I’m not so sure about the Sinderbys, the wealthy Jewish family Fellowes has invented.  Their rise to status after leaving Russia in 1850 seems sketchy. And the actor who plays Lord Sinderby looks more like Yul Brynner than a Hebrew. My own family left Poland for London around that time, and I assure you their descendants didn’t look like Lord Sinderby or Atticus by 1924. But, hey…

Both Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton  are coming to town this week for the premiere of “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” so maybe we’ll get some answers about Season 6. I’d have to guess that Isobel (Wilton) marries Lord Merton, he dies and leaves her everything. She marries the doctor and they buy the Abbey. Who knows? And what of Isis? The poor dog died. What will replace him? And will Lord Grantham realize the new dog can die, too?

We’ll be watching the big finale tonight.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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